If you have been paying any attention to Infinity, you should know that the Avengers have journeyed to deep space to halt the Builders in their course to Earth. So far, they have been unsuccessful and have found that the Builders, in defeat, spread a sphere of decay on any nearby planets.
While the Avengers are off Earth, Thanos saw it to be a good time to raze our planet and carry out a personal mission. That mission, as revealed by Black Bolt, is to find and kill Thanos' son, who happens to be an Inhuman. Black Bolt must now confront Thanos over it while the Illuminati search for his son.
At the Behemoth, a “way station for both the refugees of fallen worlds and broken armadas of the Galactic Council,” the Avengers were able to hide, regroup, and plan. But soon, they can’t hide. When the Builders find them, they send suicide ships to the Behemoth and destroy it. (This all happened in Avengers #19.) The drone’s detonation kills over forty million refugees, but the Avengers are lucky enough to survive the slaughter.
The Builders, by doing so, send a message to the Council that “there is no safe place in the universe you can hide.” Then, doing the complete unexpected, the Builders offer terms to the planets of the council-- surrender and live. And so many worlds do. Sadly, the Centaurians, Kymellians, and the Kree all surrender to the Builders.
Later, the Galactic Council has a meeting about how the Kree has surrendered to the Builders and they must return home. Ronan explains how he would rather die fighting, but he has duty. J-Son of Spartax comes to the conclusion that they are going to lose since the Kree represented one-fourth of their remaining army, so he wants to surrender because “survival is all that now matters.” The Shi’ar and Skrull choose to endure the battle with the Avengers.
J-Son, as he is leaving the Avengers to “throw away [their] lives”, reveals that the Builders have human prisoners. Once he is gone, Annihilus opinionates that J-Son betrayed them, to which Gladiator asks what their battle plan is. “We do not know how to defeat these monsters and cannot survive another strategic error,” he deems. Captain America tells him that he is “looking at the chessboard the wrong way” and he has a plan. But it requires bait.
One day later on Hala, the capital world of the Kree Empire, the Builders seem to have set up camp. On the world, the Kree army are laying down their arms to a single Builder. Above in the mother ship, a Builder explicates to an Engineer, “See, we are teaching them, Engineer-- It only takes one Builder to break a world… One of us, to humble an empire.”
With great surprise, the Caretaker aboard the ship alerts the Builders that the enemy fleet is on top of them. The Builders deem that this will be their final battle. Luckily, Captain America has other plans. The ships are merely a lure for the attack vessels so the planet killers are vulnerable. While the Builders are occupied, a group of Avengers defeat a world killer and Bruce Banner takes control of it. Cap orders his forces to “fire everything they’ve got.”
On the Builder ship, they are all captivated by the battle with the bait ships until they hear an explosion, signifying they are under attack. The ship Bruce acquired bombards the Builder ship. Sadly, Bruce loses control of the vessel when he converts to the Hulk and breaks the controls. Luckily, Cap’s second team has taken control of another ship and starts blasting the world killers.
Aboard the Builder command ship, the Caretaker tells the gathered Builders that they have lost eight of the great weapons and they cannot escape the “theater of battle.” They order the majority of their ships to depart while the third wing deals with “the rabble as best as they can.” The Builders all teleport away from the ship and order the remaining Gardener to make her end mean something.
When Cap learns that most of the Builder fleet has retreated, he confirms that a third Avengers team has rescued the hostage Avengers from the Builders. Black Widow, on the ship of the rescued captives, tells Starbrand that he has the power to stop their war. He looks at his hands and manages to detonate every Builder vessel around them. On a piece of rubble, Starbrand stands with his imprinted hand raised in the air. The Avengers have won the battle and the heavens have turned.
Meanwhile on Earth, the Thunderbolts and Might Avengers (which includes Spider-Man) fight Thanos’ invasion while the Illuminati look for Thanos’ son. Dr. Strange, who is possessed by the Ebony Maw, locates him first but tells none of the others in the Illuminati. Instead, the Illuminati are summoned to find that an incursion is happening at the worst possible time. (This can be seen in New Avengers #10.)
Above the burning New York City, a ship is launched from the mother ship of Thanos’ invasion. The ship lands on Attilan and none other than Thanos steps out with a bunch of guards. He enters the throne room to find Black Bolt sitting on his throne, alone and without his tribute. “What game is this?” Thanos asks.
Deep in the bowels of Attilan, Maximus the Mad herds the Inhumans into their teleportation device, Eldrac. He simply tells them that they are going to a place far from Attilan, each of them to a different location. As Medusa walks into Eldrac, Maximus tells her to look in the sky once she has reached her destination. Maximus strides with Lockjaw to the transportation device to the pocket world he made for Black Bolt. He arms a separate device and says, “I am only mad…because I have seen madness.”
In the throne room, Thanos taunts Black Bolt and learns that Attilan is empty. He orders Black Bolt to give him his son, but Black Bolt rises from his chair. “What say you, little king?” Thanos scoffs. Black Bolt shouts “no” at Thanos and impact the impact from his sonic waves shatter the level. During the chaos, Maximus’ device starts. Thanos manages to stand while the sonics hit him, but the flying city of Attilan does not.
This issue was extraordinary. Jonathan Hickman’s Infinity, though it is only halfway through, has reached my every expectation and has me with no idea whatsoever of what will come next. This issue was full of twists and had me on the edge of my seat throughout the entire story. This feels like one of those space movies you see in the theaters, but the plot is quality and you care about the characters.
This is certainly the payoff of Hickman’s Avengers run and it is really grand. The entire comic is rich with plot and has more material than I would expect in an entire event. Like the rest of Hickman’s run, the plot’s presentation is detached and callous but his tone fits the story well. It has a certain element that makes you feel like what you are reading is all part of a far larger picture. Frankly, with as much plot Hickman is cramming into each issue, this would have to be a twelve-part event if he wanted to include the character's feelings.
One of my favorite parts of this event is how prominently the Inhumans are being incorporated in the plot. It’s pretty obvious that this is setting up the next Marvel event, Inhumanity, which I am excited for. Of course, it has yet to be seen if the whole battle on Earth is being used only to set up Inhumanity. If so, I will be highly disappointed.
Hickman took the battle in space up a notch with this issue. The Builders vs. the Avengers felt like the climax of any regular story and the event is only half-way done. It’s also nice to see Starbrand finally getting some attention after literally being locked up in a room since he was created.
You really cannot ask for a better art rotation that Weaver and Opena. Opena's ability to convey the space battle with vivid detail and Weaver's great architecture and panel layout both make this book beautiful to look at. Justin Ponsor's colors are excellent too.
Another great issue! I would give it 5 complete webs, but the detached tone stands in my way.